A survey done by Microsoft in conjunction with Data Privacy Day on Thursday found that 70 percent of HR professionals have rejected a job candidate because of information they found about that person by doing an online search.

Have you ever applied for a job and wondered why you didn’t get it, even though you were qualified? According to a new survey, there’s a good chance that the person doing the hiring found something about you online that they didn’t like. The survey done by Microsoft found that 70 percent of HR professionals in the U.S. have rejected a job applicant based on what they found out about that individual by searching online (that number is lower in other countries).

As part of Data Privacy Day on Thursday, Microsoft says it conducted a survey of 2,500 people, among them consumers, HR managers and recruitment professionals in the U.S., UK, Germany, and France, with the goal of learning more about attitudes toward online reputation, including how such information can have real life consequences. The survey found that the top online factors for rejecting a job applicant are unsuitable photos/videos, concerns about a candidate’s lifestyle and inappropriate comments written by the candidate.

“Our research shows that managing your online reputation can be a significant benefit. Everyone should think critically about the image they’re digitally portraying,” Peter Cullen, Microsoft’s chief privacy strategist, said in a statement. Cullen also wrote about the survey on his blog, and there’s a video about the findings here.

The survey also found that not only are HR staffers search for information about job applicants online, most of their companies have made online screening a formal requirement of the hiring process. Recruiters and HR professionals also said that they believe the use of online-reputation information will significantly increase over the next five years. And while the survey found that most consumers manage their reputation at least to some extent, a significant percentage (between 30 and 35 percent depending on nationality) “don’t feel their online reputation affects either their personal or professional life [and] consequently, they are not taking steps to manage their reputations.”

Data Privacy Day (known as Data Protection Day in Europe) is designed to increase awareness around privacy and data protection issues, and is a joint project involving Microsoft, Intel, Google, AT&T and a number of other companies as well as an organization known as The Privacy Projects, a non-profit think tank devoted to researching and promoting privacy policies and standards.

Post photo and thumbnail courtesy of Flickr user Felipe Morin.

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  1. I would love to see a breakdown by age (or generation) on who thinks their online personal brand doesn’t matter. Anyone seen one?

    1. That is a great survey idea.

      It could be extended to examine what steps people take to protect/obscure their identities online, and how well those steps actually work.

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  6. Technology has grown to be an important communication tool for the people of today. Through text, email, and skype we are always available to whom ever needs to be in contact with us. In recent years, online communities have become very popular. Right now facebook is probably the most popular. It a place where people can be themselves, its a documentation of their everyday lives, almost like an online diary. People have a comfort level online that they do not in the real world, opening up and being as honest as they could possibly be, no holds bar. When online, people have a chip on their shoulder, “This is my facebook page, and if you do not like what I have to say, you can leave my page”. They have confidence! But as great as technology is, like everything else with the good comes the bad and that is what this article is talking about. When people are online they become comfortable, too comfortable. They forget that the cyber world that they have created crosses into the real world. Anyone can throw on a suit and tie and make themselves sound like a grade A professional, but are you really who say you are? Because of the technology today, and online communities your prospective employers can and will find this information out. How? Easy, by reading your “online diary”. This article just shows you that you still have to be careful about what you put out into the cyber world because it becomes public information. It could also be detrimental to your career, or hinder you from getting a job that you want and may deserve, all because of a few stupid pictures and comments. So be careful before you click the “share” button on facebook next time. Consider who you are sharing with.

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  8. Oh yeah. I just knew that I was perfect for the job. But I was surprised why they hired someone who did not even know how to work the computer. Seriously, who in the world would do that??? I found out that they didn’t hire me because their HR executive found a blog with a picture of me trashing my ex boyfriend’s place. I hired Reputec to do what they can in getting rid of that blog and they also generated a lot of positive content. And now? I’m employed! :) With a different company, though.

  9. Now we’re in the age of social media, privacy is definitely dead. The amount of information we provide on Facebook and Twitter, other people are already able determine what we want them to portray. With that said, people should either protect their tweets or make their Facebook extremely private, and to be selective with the type of photo’s they put out there on the internet.

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